Weird Eggsperiments from the Pantry: Daring Cooks Challenge

December 15th, 2010

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

A well poached egg is one of the most simply delicious culinary delights that anyone can master.  If you have fresh eggs, it is truly a gourmet treat.  I love poached eggs, but spent years trying to get the perfect poach.  After trying all sorts of gizmos….. silicone cups and those sort of forms, I have concluded that the perfect poached egg is made by the little “truc” of making sure that you simply swirl the boiling water, then turn the heat way down, and give a little swirl until the egg is definitely free from the bottom.  The other secret is quite a bit of vinegar in the water – I use about 2 T to  my little deep Paderno saucepan.  A dash of salt is  also important, and keep the water only just before a boil.  Poached eggs are so versatile.  They are delicious just on toast, but also resting on beds of various things, covered by sauce. One of my favourite combos is poached eggs on a bed of du Puy lentils, weird I know but good protein and low glycemic index (This is important so you can eat more shortbread cookies).

Anyway, to get on with the challenge, I needed to do this fast since my most recent obsession is knitting doll clothes so I wanted to get back to my yarn.  For the first “eggsperiment” I happened to have a jar of Patak’s korma sauce just opened that I had used on a delicious fish dish the night before, and some good Italian canned tomatoes.  So, I made a sauce of tomatoes, a couple spoons of Pataks (to taste – no recipe needed here!), and some of the dark kabouli chick peas I had in the fridge.  So, eggsperiment one was delicious, and a make again for sure, good for fridge leftovers, I bet you can put almost any leftover vegetable in the sauce.  And if you havent tried Pataks sauces, they are an amazing, my theory is that they can get fresher spices than we can.  I make lots of indian food, but Pataks is sometimes the best answer to quick gourmet Indian food (especially in a small central Ontario town where Indian is pretty exotic and restaurantless).

Eggsperiment #2:  “Oeufs a la Châtaigne”

Another pantry wonder.  I had spinach that was past it’s prime.  So I sauteed it for a sumptious bed for the poached egg.  Then, I ruminated over maybe  a cheese sauce, and really wanted to do Oeufs en Meurette, but today I wanted to go shopping so that’s for later.  So  I rooted out a truly gourmet leftover from the depths of my fridge – a “Confit of Chestnuts, Fennel, and Walnuts” from the Joel Robuchon / Patricia Wells  Simply French cookbook.  OK, true confessions, I didn’t make the exact recipe (my larder of veal stock was non existent), but my version was to saute onions, shallots, fennel, deglaze the pan with some sherry, then add the chestnuts and walnuts.  This was baked in the oven until the rest of the meal was done.  It was delicious, even Greg who doesn’t really like fennel had seconds.  After spying this lovely little bowl of chestnutty goodness …(don’t throw up, I am trying to emulate Nigella),  I put some of the leftover confit in the food processor, added a little water and whip cream, and voila, the start of a delicious sauce.  I heated this up, added a little flour to smooth out and thicken, and poured it over the poached egg.  I have not included a picture of the cut centre, because the truth is that by the time I finished all this pantry raiding the yolk was a little stiff, so the picture you will have to imagine is a bite taken out and the yellowy smoothness of the yolk bursting out of its eggy goodness  (ok, I know, enough Nigella, maybe I will try emulating Anthony Bourdain next!)

Stay tuned for my next post, I just got springerele molds!!

Pasta Frolla Crostata – Chevre Tarts

November 28th, 2010

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

The pastry is similar to pate brisee, but a little more egg.  Good news for me is that I needed some egg whites for macarons anyway. The pastry handles beautifully with a little rest in the fridge first.  The recipe for the pasta frolla is on the Daring Bakers site.

After considering the possibilities and what I had on hand and wasting a lot of time reading on my baking shelf (yes, I confess to being a compulsive cookbook buyer!) I decided to make a version with chevre tart filling adapted from a recipe in Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life, one of my favourite pastry cookbooks.  I happened to have some pomegranate I had already stripped (I love these little red berries, but they make a complete mess, even spattering little red dots on my face!)

I needed these for a Christmas party that night, so I used the extra pastry for some medium and small size stars.  Sprinkled with a little sugar, these made a red sparkly platter of tarts.  They disappeared quickly once people started eating dessert.

Thanks again to Simona for a great challenge.  I will definitely make this again.

Chevre Tart Filling

Adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman

This simple cheesecake type filling can be used in tart shells, or simply based on its own and covered with fruit or nuts.  It has a definite goaty taste, so those who do not like the classic chevre taste beware.

Ingredients Method
  • 10 oz goat cheese (about 2/3 of a 16 oz log)
  • ½ cup regular(14%) sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp corn starch (optional)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend.  Don’t worry too much if there are still some little lumps of chevre.
Fill unbaked pie or tart shells with filling.  Bake @ 350 until the custard is puffed and firm.  Cool.  Best served at room temperature.  Can be frozen.   Top with fresh fruit, pomegranates are terrific on this.

Crab Souffle…A Daring Cooks Challenge

November 15th, 2010

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I have to compliment Dave and Linda, their explanation and pictures were great, and a nouveau souffle baker would be able to follow their directions easily.

I have made souffles before when I was younger and trying to learn about French cooking.  Souffles were considered very exotic, so of course I wanted to make some.  My early attempts all turned out, and chocolate was the one I remember making. However, since I have mot made many since, I guess that although they are interesting, souffles are not at the top of my extensive food loving list.

For this challenge I wanted to try a seafood souffle, inspired by some of the ones I saw in the Daring Cooks posts.  I decided to look through my several French cookbooks, and guess what, there were very few souffle recipes in them.  Finally I went to my foundational French cookbook, Julia Child’s  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and of course she has a wonderful section that thoroughly explains souffles and gives a generic recipe and variations. So, I ended up using her recipe but using cornstarch and buckwheat flour to make it gluten free.  For the additions I used 3/4 cup of canned crab (ok ok for purists, it was what I had in the cupboard!) and about 1/4 cup of chopped up marinated artichokes.  I spiced it with a tsp of Dijon mustard, and some fresh grated nutmeg (see, I am not a cooking Cretin, I did use fresh grated nutmeg!).  As you can see from the picture, all the sizes of souffles rose to the occasion, and watching them in the oven was the best part of the cooking entertainment experience. The souffle tasted delicious and had a delicate texture and good flavour (ok I have to admit fresh crab would have been better.)

The other souffle memory I do have is that my mother often made a family favourite dessert called lemon pudding.  Well guess what, turns out it was a souffle and we all loved it.  I think one time my brother wanted a whole batch of lemon souffle for himself on his birthday. If you want a souffle recipe they are on the Daring Cooks website now.

Doughnuts: Daring Bakers October Challenge

November 2nd, 2010

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

When I was a kid my grandmother made the most delicious doughnuts.  There was no Tim Horton’s then! She made cake versions, and in my mind still these are the doughnuts I love to eat.  My grandmother always had these covered in sugar in a cookie can for us.  There was never any variation, and in my mind this was because they were perfect!.  They were always spiced with nutmeg and dunked in sugar.  My grandmother’s recipes live in various versions in my family.  My version has no amount of flour, you were just supposed to know when the dough was right. I used to make them at Christmas as a treat for my children, who looked forward to helping make them and eating them.

I rarely make doughnuts now due to calories and also because my husband, one of the fans, has to have gluten free now.  So with this challenge, I made a gluten free version.  I did not use the daring bakers gluten free recipe because it has mainly rice flour, which I cannot use due to allergies.  So I used a recipe directly from The Gluten Free Kitchen by Robin Ryberg (See my gluten free section for information about this book which I recommend as a first intro to baking gluten free).

I will post the recipe later.There were so good you could not really tell they were gluten free. Mmmmmm….good thing I did an hour of walking this morning!

Zucchini Pickles….or what to do with a jumbo zucchini

September 14th, 2010

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I have done a lot of preserving over the years, so decided to make an interesting recipe that can be kept in the fridge or freezer.  The best thing about these pickles is that they are very crisp.  Despite several tries and different recipes, I have never gotten really crisp pickles that are heat preserved.

I think this recipe would work fine with cucumbers instead of zucchini.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook that is probably no longer in print, called Quick Pickles, Easy recipes with Big Flavor, by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George. The book is all quick pickles, and I have made several variations from the book, so if you can find it it is great.

Curried Zucchini Pickles

This recipe is originally for refrigerator storage, and will keep for about 6 weeks.  However, after making another recipe for freezer ice box pickles, I experimented and discovered that these keep very well frozen, and stay crisp for about a week in the fridge once thawed.  I used a really big (5 lbs) zucchini with a tough skin, and it worked great after scraping out the seeds and pithy stuff from the centre.

Even people who don’t like zucchini like these.



Stage 1, Salting the veggies:

3 pounds zucchini

1 or 2 red peppers, cut into small pieces

3 medium size onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings

¼ cup coarse salt

Adding the grapes:

1 cup red or green grapes, cut in half

(Note, these go in after the brining step, do not add in step one)

The spiced pickling mixture:

2 3/4 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups orange juice

3/4 cup sherry (amontillado)

2 cups sugar

1 T curry powder

½ tsp cayenne or ancho chili powder

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp whole allspice berries

Fresh ginger, about 1″, cut into fine strips

3 cloves garlic (optional)

Cut the zucchini into thin 1/8 inch little wedges.  If using a really whopper zucchini, then scrape out the inside seeds and pithy interior.  You can peel the zucchini, but I prefer it left green.

Place all this in a glass bowl, mix in the salt, and let sit for an hour. The salt will extract the juices, and the pile of zucchini will shrink.  This is why the pickles stay crisp.

Rinse the veggies three times to get all the salt out.  Place back in the bowl, and add the grapes.

Make the spice mixture in a saucepan, simmer for a couple minutes,  and pour over the vegetables.  Pack into jars that have been rinsed in boiling water first to sterilize.  For refrigerator  storage I use quarts and for freezing I use half or quarter pints so that I only defrost a small portion since they only stay crisp for a week at most, and are best the first cou0ple days.

These are good to eat  in a couple hours, but best starting the next day.  They must be kept in the fridge or freezer.

Baked Alaska and Petit Fours from Daring Bakers

August 30th, 2010

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I made a gluten free poundcake which I adapted from the recipe on the Daring Bakers website.  Browning the butter for the cake really develops a rich buttery taste.  I used the other recipes straight from the challenge recipes. The most difficult part was doing the chocolate fontant coating because the ice cream melted really quickly once the little squares were out of the freezer.  I also made a regular wheat based poundcake, and it was also terrific.  The chocolate fondant covering recipe worked well, and these were delicious and also interesting to decorate.  I used pieces of strawberry that I cut up and mint leaves from my bumper crop.

I had some chocolate fondant left, so I also made some little baked alaskas.  I used the pound 
cake, added a layer of the chocolate, then the ice cream.  when all this was frozen I added the merangue and froze it again.  A torch was the final method of browning the Alaskas. G. liked them, although found them a little too sweet.

All in all, this was a really fun challenge.  The baked Alaska method worked extremely well, and with the torch method you can make these all ahead, so that is also a good thing as Martha Stewart says.

All the recipes are on the Daring Bakers site right here:

Baked Pakoras….Delicious!

August 23rd, 2010

I love pakoras, the Indian snack food that is usually deep fried. I usually make them and freeze them.  They are a great item to bring to dinner parties for an h’ors d’oeuvre as they can be baked from frozen fairly quickly.  Anyway, although I love them, they are a lot of work to make, a lot of mess with the deep frying, and I dont even want to know the calories in them!

To make a long story short, I wondered about baking them instead, and when I searched the internet I found that others had had the same thought.  Anyway, I just adapted my favourite pakora recipe from the cookbook The Dance of Spices (my most reliable and delicious of my many Indian cookbooks, by Laxmi Hiremath), and was I ever impressed.  Not only do they taste great, but they freeze and also reheat well.  Even better, the batter and vegetables can be made a sit a couple days in the fridge until you get time to bake them.  I read that the batter actually ferments a little, and this improves the flavor.

I made the batter, chopped the vegetables (I used cauliflower, eggplant, onion, potato (the red waxy type), and fresh cilantro. I found that baking them in the tiny size muffin tins worked well. I sprayed the top of the batter with a little olive oil to mimic a deep fried taste.  I find they need to bake for about 40 minutes, and can even be left a little longer depending on how crisp you want the crust.  I have made these three times in the last couple weeks.  They reheat well in the mocrowave and make a great snack or side dish at mealtime.  There are many recipes for pakoras on the internet.  Let me know if you want me to post one too.

Another good thing for many of you, pakoras use only chick pea flour and a little rice flour, so they are gluten free and quite nutritious.

Paella Pierogies: Daring Cooks

August 15th, 2010

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I ended up making a gluten free version, but the dough part was a little tough.  My husband ate is anyway and even said it was good, but I knew it was one of those jaw exercising types of dough!  For the filling I used smoked chicken leftovers, and onion and cabbage with a little sour cream to hold it together.  It was quite good.

It has been really hot, and perogies are a cold weather food in my food framework, so I was having trouble getting enthusiastic.  Finally I got the inspiration to use the leftover paella I had in the fridge, then I got to work.  I have been really fond of paella since we went to Spain, and leftover paella is quite a tasty thing to use, my favourite is scrambled eggs with paella in them – delicious! The pierogi filling I made  was day old paella made from the recent Fine Cooking recipe, more or less; cottage cheese, and finally a mixture of onions and cauliflower chopped fine in the food processor that I sweated until tender.  Well I know this sounds like a dubious combination, but the filling was excellent.  The dough…..well I confess I have made perogies twice before, once with my sister in law’s mother, and once with a ukranian friend.  On those occasions I had expert help, and the dough was tender and wonderful.  My dough, without the expert advice was still tough, even the non gluten free version.

Anyway, as usual with the daring cooks it was an adventure.  I don’t plan to make pierogies for a long time, the bought ones are looking pretty darn good to me now!

A Few Pics of the Real Ice Cream Challenge

August 7th, 2010

We did finally eat the large size Ice Cream Challenge on the weekend when my newlywed nice and her hubby were here.  It got rave reviews, and if you are ever crazy enough to spend this much time making a dessert, one saving grace of the time spent is that it can rest happily in the freezer until about 15 minutes before you are ready to serve it.  The leftovers can also just be put back in the freezer (save that bowl that you molded it in!) and we finished them off last night. I confess I thought it needed a little something, so I made more of the the hot fudge sauce (with some tweaking to make it richer) and poured some over it last night…..peanut butter heaven, but I will have to go more miles on my new bike today to pay for the calories!  Recipes in  previous post.

A Couple Practical Ideas

August 5th, 2010

I know I use a lot of flours in gluten free recipes compared to some of the popular cookbooks, but I do find I get the best results this way.  My goal is not only the taste, but also to make the flour mixes as nutritional as possible. I avoid the use of rice flour as it is not only nutritionally inferior, but in my opinions creates dry and tasteless baked goods.  Anyway, after trying all sorts of organizations, I have come up with this method using zipper bags, and it not only keeps the flours organized, it is really easy to scoop out amounts and just leave them in their organized row.  I just pack this all up in its box and keep the flours in the freezer until the next time I bake.  I use almost all flours I grind myself in a nutrimill, and freezing them is not necessary but does keep the flavour top notch.

I caved in to the use of spray grease several years ago when I found out that even my mother, a wonderful baker, was using it.  It is so easy to use, and I have always hated greasing pans.  However, I have really been trying to be more environmentally friendly, and the spray grease is not only expensive, it leaves a lot of waste cans polluting the environment.  So, I did remember using a lecithin mix many years ago when I baked copius loaves of bread.  The problem with my previous use of lecithin was that you had to use a brush, which inevitably got very grimy and difficult to clean and store.  On a recent trip to the local bulk store I was thrilled to find a silicone brush that has the little holes that retain liquid better than the plain ones, and a jar of lecithin for only 5.99.  After researching several methods on the internet, I ended up making my own version, and it works perfectly.  The mix is 2 tsp lecithin, dissolved in 1/4 cup of vodka.  Lecithin is an emulsifier, so this mix stays together.  Grease the pans with the silicone brush before baking.  I found the mix recipes had less lecithin, and the first batch with one teaspoon worked, but not as well as spray grease.  The additional teaspoon solved this.  The other method is to use oil instead of vodka.  Oil is cheaper, so maybe I will try that when I run out of this.  I remember the oil mixture I had used in the past was pretty gooey, so I wanted to try the vodka.  Works like a charm, and no spray grease cans to worry about.

Here is a close up of the middle of the brush. This one was the good grips brand.  These are easy to wash, you can even put them in the dishwasher.

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